The Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. NOFA/Mass welcomes everyone who cares about food, where it comes from and how it’s grown

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Carbon Sequestration

Dark soil profile

Dark soil profile

I had the pleasure recently of doing a phone interview with Casey Townsend to discuss the success of his first year using “no-till” at Natick Community Organic Farm (NCOF). Here below are his words.

I went to The Soil and Nutrition Conference in February. It was an overview of some of the work Bryan O’Hara has done at his farm. As he was talking about his compost, I realized that this might be a great option for the compost we make. I realized we could benefit if we were to use some of Bryan’s methods. We just filled all of our compost bins with a compost of manure, wood chips and leaves, a recipe with a C:N ratio of 30:1. Our newest mixture is 10 parts leaves, six parts wood chips, one part turkey manure – measured in tractor bucket loads. We turn it once and it comes out chunky.

Since I handed over the NOFA/Mass Education Director job to Glenn Oliveira (and he has embraced it with all of his might), I have time for investigation and outreach in directions that never seemed to fit into my day in the past.

Working to mimic nature, we are growing mixed vegetables on 1-acre scale without tillage except for hand tools and occasionally pigs or chickens. This class will cover the benefits of no-till, growing with permanent “raised” beds, weed prevention through mulches and cover crops, and breaking ground for new garden space with cardboard.

Cover crops aren’t just for large farms! Learn how to make use of cover crops in the home garden to improve soil health, reduce weed pressure, and sequester carbon. Participants learned the types of cover crops that are suitable for the garden, how and when to plant them, and how they can fit into a seasonal crop rotation.

Most efforts to respond to rapid global climate change center on emissions reduction or climate adaptation. This workshop explores a third tool - carbon sequestration in trees and soil. We’ll review the science and discuss agroforestry, holistic rotational grazing, organic no-till, and biochar. We'll identify promising methods and crops for farmers in the Northeast to trial.

I will report from the Africa Center for Holistic Management in Zimbabwe, where grazing, in accordance with evolutionary patterns, is re-greening highly depleted landscapes: helping to provide sustainable food and water security while invariably sequestering carbon through new soil formation. Case studies and explanations provided.

How integrated practices of biological soil management effect carbon sequestration. What is the biological system, how does it work, and what can you do to help it work better, with a focus on building stable soil humus.

Interest in grazing and soil and the role they play in climate change is reaching the mainstream, with an article in the Boston Globe entitled “How to solve climate change with cows (maybe)”.

Over the past 7 years, we have been developing systems that allow us to use lighter and less tillage. I will explain our crop rotation, and describe how we manage each crop, deal with crop residue, and prep beds. I will show how these practices support the goal of tillage reduction.

I always look hungrily for Jerry Brunetti’s articles in Acres magazine. He has a thoroughly scientific, while poetic and practical way of discussing soil, soil health, and biological systems. I was not let down with his new book, The Farm as Ecosystem.

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